How Apple’s New iOS 16 Can Help Track And Manage Your Medications
One of the lesser heralded features Apple revealed about its upcoming iOS 16 and watchOS 9 releases are its ability to manage and monitor users’ regular medication intake, including the aptitude to screen for dangerous drug interactions.
Of course, this is not a brand-new capability for the iPhone. For years, numerous third-party apps on the Apple App Store have provided this functionality with more or less of the same features that the Cupertino-based company touted at WWDC 22 a few weeks ago. But when Apple integrates a new capability like this into its device operating systems, people stand up and take notice. After all, this new feature is consistent with Apple’s ongoing strategy (personified by iOS 16) to make the iPhone much more personal with sleep tracking data and photos taken from your picture gallery viewable on your Lock Screen.
How has the Health app been updated?
To manage your medications, the existing Health app has been updated with a new Medications option that allows you to search for the name of your prescription that you’d like to track. In typical Apple fashion, the app will enable you to simply scan the label using OCR (optical character recognition) to add the necessary information to the Health app. I tested the app with my bottle of Losartan, and it instantly recognized the medication and the dosage size upon scanning the barcode on the bottle. While I didn’t test the functionality, the app can ascertain a prescription based on the size and color of the pill (though I’m not sure I’d trust myself to use that method given the subjectivity of pill color and size). Once the medication is determined and added, you select your frequency and when you’d like a specific reminder to appear.
Monitoring your medications
The Health app makes it effortless to confirm and mark that you’ve consumed your medication. There’s also an added ability for regularly tracking “as needed” medications you might not need to track (like vitamins or supplements). Still, speaking for myself, I like to track everything, including non-prescription doses.
The Health app accommodates predesignated time reminders on the Lock Screen to let you know when your medication should be taken. Conveniently, Haptic Touch can be used (which opens a contextual menu) to show a user all of their options.
Once the Health app is opened, users can mark all the medications that have been taken (or skipped) or ask the app to remind them in ten minutes. These tracked medications are shown to the user in a highly visual manner, including the days you took the drugs and the day you might have missed. All this information is archived in the Health app, making it easy to send to your physician if necessary.
watchOS doesn’t get left behind
Of course, the absolute convenience of this new functionality kicks in for Apple Watch users. Apple also unveiled a new Medications app (shaped like a pill icon) to the upcoming watchOS update to track ingestion of medicines. The same alerts that appear on iPhone also show up on Apple Watch. For me, this is one more compelling reason why an Apple Watch (which is being worn most of the day) is such a persuasive heath management device for users of all ages, particularly the elderly.
Harmful drug interactions are a big deal
One massive benefit of having an app managing regular medication intake is the ability to prevent potentially harmful drug interactions. Dangerous drug interactions should get more attention as it has caused many preventable deaths. A Harvard University study indicated that 128,000 people died from unsafe drug interactions in 2014.
iOS 16’s new updated Health app provides a beneficial ability to highlight medications with harmful interactions. While this information is routinely provided every time a person receives a prescription drug, as well as verbal guidance that a doctor or pharmacist might provide, this information is often ignored or forgotten. The new Health app automatically alerts users to potential harmful interactions, including possible consequences of using particular medications with tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. The Health app allows you to categorize these interactions as moderate, serious and critical.
Of course, serious interactions should be discussed with your physician, but having an app that provides this automated oversee capability is welcome, particularly if the user is taking multiple medications daily or weekly.
A few closing thoughts
These new capabilities represent another formidable and vital step in Apple’s ongoing mission to expand the iPhone and Apple Watch’s positioning as must-have devices for health monitoring and management. Compelling market research shows that a significant majority of wearable buyers are likely to pay more for health features. Apple recognizes that its ongoing health focus has both virtuous benefits and attractive revenue and profit consequences.
Apple also had a built-in advantage in offering this personalized health management feature because of its enviable reputation for privacy and data protection. While third-party apps may claim a strong affinity for protecting users’ device data privacy, users will presumably find more comfort in an Apple-based solution as private medication data is not stored in the cloud and is locally managed.
This new medication tracking functionality in the Health app is likely to get strong support from physicians and health care providers, who increasingly see wearable devices as a powerful way to maintain the health of individuals in a cost-effective, real-time and easy-to-use manner. With these new capabilities, Apple is likely to further cement its position as the world’s leading smartwatch provider as well.
Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.
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